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Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category

You just can’t make this stuff up. Thanks Ana Navarro-Cardenas for reminding me of last week’s highlights cause you know, I didn’t watch the RNC rally at the White House this week.

  • “Bannon indicted for swindling Trump’s base
  • Trump ordered to pay Stormy’s legal fees
  • Trump’s niece recorded the sister saying he’s a cruel, phony, liar
  • Conway Family saga (see previous post)
  • Now, Jerry Falwell says his wife had an affair w/the pool boy (while he watched)”

And just to cap this wonderful week off, I managed to lift a very heavy box of paint – don’t ask – and now even my elbows are hurting. Lest I forget, yesterday was yet another Tornado Warning complete with sirens. If this pandemic/political/hurricane season isn’t depressing enough, I thought you’d like to hear the rest of the Flapper’s essay on the Great Depression!

To recap – It was 1935, my Mother put yellow food coloring in Crisco and called it butter. My Father was making $7 a week!

“Clothes were hard to come by, and each of my children had only two pairs of shoes, one for the wintertime and one for the summertime (and that was during a good year). I made a schedule of household chores for me to do all day. First, I would feed my children, and send Shirley and Brian off to school.

Then on Mondays, I would do the laundry (by hand on a washboard, since we had no washing machine). and hang it out to dry on the line. On Tuesdays I would iron the clothes. Wednesdays I’d clean the upstairs of the house, and Thursdays the downstairs. Fridays, I would bake for the weekend and do any shopping that needed to be done. Saturdays were my only free days, and Sundays we’d all go to church and our relatives would come over for dinner and a good game of cards.

On March 4, 1933 Franklin D Roosevelt became President! He was the answer to the prayers of the people, and the best president this country has ever had. Even to this day, there is a picture of him hanging in my kitchen, right next to the picture of Jesus Christ. I do not like to imagine what would have happened had it not been for President Roosevelt.

In 1935 Bob finally got a better paying job – $25 a week!! However it was in Jamestown, New York, so he had to move out there.It cost him $10 to rent a room and buy food etc. Back home in Scranton, we received $15 a week. A BIG improvement from the $7 we had been getting. In April, when I had my son Michael, Bob was not able to come home to see him. Soon after his birth however, my husband luckily found an even better paying job… and it was at home in Scranton! We were overjoyed to have him living with us, and to have $35 a week.

It sounds funny now, but we thought we were rich!

Life during the Great Depression was hard. I’m not quite sure how we were able to do it, but we did. We were lucky not to have lost everything, like some of my friends did. I think that our society to day has made it all too easy and normal to throw things away. Why throw away socks with holes when you can mend them? Why throw away food when you can save it for another time? People today are too wasteful. 

If anything good did come out of the Depression, it taught me not to waste things, because you never know when you could lose it all.”

We all know what we’ve got to lose in the next election.

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Some of you may know that I, like Joe Biden, have strong ties to Scranton, PA.

Actually, my entire family came from County Mayo, Ireland to that hard working, coal-mining, Catholic city in Lackawanna County generations ago. My paternal grandfather owned a successful butcher shop, and his parents and grandparents before him owned cattle. They were landowners, they could read and write – I know now because it’s all on the census lists over a century ago and I’m on Ancestry.com!

They are all buried in Cathedral Cemetery, at the top of a hill, in Scranton.

What does it mean to come from a particular place?

Even though I left Scranton at a young age, my foster parents, Nell and Daddy Jim, crossed the Delaware Water Gap for a visit with the Flapper, who still couldn’t walk, week after week, year after year. What, if anything, did I take away from Scranton?

I learned early not to complain, to get on with a task I didn’t like doing. It didn’t matter if I wanted to do something else, when it was time to wash my hair for instance, I did it. The Flapper told me that the most beautiful girls in the world came from Pennsylvania! Just look at Grace Kelly! Maybe that’s why she would always pull my wet hair back into “princess braids,” and if I complained she would say we had to suffer to be beautiful.

I gained a certain confidence in Scranton, a sense of self reliance. I remember my Nana telling me that Dolly Madison ice cream was the best ice cream in the world! She would give me money to walk to the store for her, all by myself, and I’d have to count out the change at the store and when I returned. I was only eight or nine, but she trusted me.

I learned that my family expected the best in me. They gave me ballet lessons and my sister Kay was my Professor Higgins; drilling my Jersey accent out of me. .Nana proudly took me to see my very first movie, Picnic in 1955. I was seven years old. She said that children don’t usually go to the movies, but she trusted me not to run up and down the aisles. I didn’t.

Self-sufficiency and fierce independence were highly prized commodities in Scranton. My elderly aunts pickled vegetables. The steps to the cellar were lined with shelves filled with chow chow and other strange sounding things. Kay would love to tell us the story of forcing Nana to give up her ice box because she bought her a new-fangled refrigerator.

Biden had to leave Scranton at the age of 10 because his father found a job in Delaware, but his Irish Catholic roots, like mine, ran deep.

“…his (Biden’s) great-great-grandfather had moved to northeastern Pennsylvania in 1851 after emigrating from Ireland. Scranton was where his grandparents, and his parents, had met, he said. After moving away in the fourth grade, he continued to spend most of his summers and holidays there, visiting his mother’s family in the same middle-class, predominantly Irish Catholic neighborhood where he had spent his early years.

“My mother would go on to live in Delaware more than 50 years, but when you asked Jean Finnegan where she was from, she’d say ‘Scranton,’” he added.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/05/21/trump-biden-scranton-pennsylvania-deserted-delaware/

It’s funny, but Great Grandma Ada always says she’s from Brooklyn, even though she left it 75 years ago.

I might still be living in Pennsylvania if not for The Year of Living Dangerously.

Pennsylvania carries 20 votes in the Electoral College, and is now considered a swing state. Mr T won the state in 2016 by less than one percentage point. Its residents are from the salt of the earth; descendants of coal miners and yes, small business owners like “The Office.” They are a loyal, proud bunch, not afraid of hard work. And they can smell a con from miles away.

Here is a picture of the L’il Pumpkin’s first day at Kindergarten. As Biden would say, “C’MON”!IMG_8148

 

 

 

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Have you ever heard strange sounds in the middle of the night? Not like squirrels in the chimney, or mice in the walls. And not like thunder and lightning followed by a deranged dog trying to crawl under your bed. More like footsteps out on your porch at 4 am?

Well, that’s how our weekend began. Someone was clomping around on our porch – but let’s start from the very beginning.

On Friday I really wanted to see the Groom. We’d called, texted and Zoomed and Facetimed, but he was finally out of the Tower and back in the bosom of his family. I had to make sure he was doing well and warn the Bride not to expect too much; he needed to rest after all. Covid can take a lot out of a person. I mean just walking to the mailbox could be exhausting.

But you can’t keep a good man down for long because on Friday he had already been teaching the Love Bug how to ride a bike, setting up their “tiny school” at home, and then he took the dogs on a 30 minute walk! So I rewarded my Son-in-Law’s enthusiasm with a big plate of chicken parmigiana that night. As we were leaving, the Bride began to take the Grands blood for a study at the university.

We have at-home kits to take blood, but not to test for this virus?

As we drove home from our socially distanced dinner on their front porch, we passed a long Catholic parade on the streets of Germantown. An official Bishop-type led dozens of priests and altar boys carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary adorned with flowers, there were at least a hundred people following the procession – the Assumption of Mary. Many of the women wore a lacey head covering, but virtually nobody wore a mask. Everyone was singing!

As I opened the car window and looked on adoringly, thinking about all those years at a Catholic camp singing with nuns in the woods on our way to a grotto, Bob yelled, “Wear a damn mask!” breaking the spell.

And that was the night, or actually early the next morning, we heard the intruder on our porch. Bob immediately went downstairs and I immediately thought to myself, “My phone is plugged in downstairs, what if I need to call 911…”

Then I heard Bob’s voice, he was talking to somebody. Prompting Ms Bean to leave her cozy bed, she led the way downstairs; so much for our little guard dog, she never uttered a peep, not a growl or a bark! Bob had already locked the door and sent a young man, who was surely a drunk tourist, on his way.

“What did you say?” I asked him.

“I asked him what he thought he was doing here,” Bob said. Sometimes the NJ vibe just cannot be contained. I was stunned. What if he had a gun? What if What if What if…..

Once before, in the Blue Ridge, a large van pulled up to our house at around midnight. Bob got up and looked out the window to see an elderly man standing there, putting on a jacket. We opened the front door and the man said, “We’re here for Mr Young.” Now Mr Young was actually an older gentleman farmer and former UVA professor who lived down our country road a piece, and he had died in his sleep. The van was from the Cremation Society of Virginia.

Would it be wrong to say how relieved we were – that the van wasn’t coming for us? We were living on 14 acres in the middle of a forest, still Bob wasn’t scared. And he had no fear in the wee hours before daybreak on Saturday, in fact, he went back to sleep! While I stayed up replaying all the different scenarios in my head. Maybe we should move out of the city? Should we start looking for a beach house, again?

When in doubt, cook! Yesterday I sent Bob to Whole Foods for tahini because the Insta people voted on Baba Ganoush as an appetizer. Although zucchini season was done, Bob’s elegant Japanese eggplants were just getting started. I haven’t made this yummy hummus-like spread since the 70s and it was a major hit at our party for two.

How many lives do we humans get? I survived a car accident in 1949, the Groom survived Covid in 2020. I wonder if our democracy will survive this political pandemic season.

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We have some very good news for you today. The Groom has returned from his two week exile in the Tower of Nashville garage apartment! He is virus and fever-free and our family couldn’t be happier. Next week, he and the Bride will be sharing home-schooling so he better rest up while he can. We’ve all learned that a surgical mask may not protect you if you’re around patients all the time, or colleagues who test positive.

But what about the rest of us? What have we learned in our (fill in the blank) weeks of quarantine? I’m on week 22 and I’ve learned that Bernie was pretty much right about everything, that police budgets are off the charts, that misogyny still lives in our political language, and that you get 50 points for using all your letters on one word in Scrabble!

Bob may never play with me again.

I’ve also discovered new family members on my biological Father’s side thanks to the Rocker and “23andMe.” Which resulted in my becoming addicted to “Ancestry” – the keeper of my personal DNA thread. You know the one, where I’m 99.9% Irish. I have a vague memory of traveling to a lake in PA, in a town named after a long dead relative, for my First Holy Communion in about 1953. I even have a black and white picture of an ancestral Victorian farmhouse there, with a huge wraparound porch.

I couldn’t wait to share this second cousin news with my brother, Dr Jim, and my sister Kay on our weekly Zoom call yesterday. Kay is the family archivist, after all she is the oldest sibling with the longest memory. She told me that two of my paternal aunts never had children, and another, Aunt Elinor (the grandmother of my newly discovered relatives), adored my Father. A fourth aunt died at the age of 15.

A chill ran down my spine when I later found her death certificate from 1914 on Ancestry; her cause of death was listed as “chronic endocarditis.” My Father was only 13 when she died, this may be why he decided to study pharmacology instead of taking over the family business. Druggists, in the 30s and 40s, were the de facto doctors in poor, working class communities. Many people were afraid of hospitals, they thought you could catch polio there.

Dr Jim, still a working psychologist, told his sisters that we should try doing a Pecha Kucha presentation about our lives! I think he’s afraid dementia may set in before our stories are told! It’s a power point presentation, where you show 20 slides for 20 seconds each. That gives you exactly six minutes and 40 seconds to talk about transformative events in your life. I’m not so sure Great Grandma Ada could condense 96 years to 20 pictures, but I’m willing to give it a try.

Pecha Kucha was invented by two architects four years ago, Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, to fill up a gallery space they owned in Japan and increase business. Many big cities, before the pandemic hit, used to host pecha-nights, including Nashville. Why? “…the rules have a liberating effect. Suddenly, there’s no preciousness in people’s presentations. Just poetry.” https://www.wired.com/2007/08/st-pechakucha/

What would your first picture be? How would you begin the story of your life? My future adult Grands might start out with this picture of their Dad, released from his Covid quarantine.IMG_8085

 

 

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Can you remember what you were like at 15? Great Grandma Ada’s mother, Ettie, was preparing to set sail for America from Russia, alone. My sister Kay was taking care of her invalid mother and her brothers; she had accompanied me to my foster parents house in NJ. She hated to leave me there, but school was about to start. The Flapper still couldn’t walk.

At 15 I was so full of myself. Kay was a glamorous stewardess and my brothers were in college. I already had a boyfriend, and a part in the school play. The guidance counselor hadn’t yet told me my “B” average wasn’t good enough for college. I could walk downtown after school with friends and get a cheeseburger and fries at White’s Drugstore any day of the week. The worst thing I ever did was to tell my history teacher I didn’t like history. He actually looked pained.

Today, a 15 year old Black girl named Grace is sitting in a juvenile detention facility in Detroit. It’s a long story of entanglement with social services and her single mom, but the reason why she’s being held? She didn’t do her online homework after her school shut down because of the coronavirus! Her story was published on Pro Publica:

Across the country, teachers, parents and students have struggled with the upheaval caused by months long school closures. School districts have documented tens of thousands of students who failed to log in or complete their schoolwork: 15,000 high school students in Los Angeles, one-third of the students in Minneapolis Public Schools and about a quarter of Chicago Public Schools students.

Students with special needs are especially vulnerable without the face-to-face guidance from teachers, social workers and others. Grace, who has ADHD, said she felt unmotivated and overwhelmed when online learning began April 15, about a month after schools closed. Without much live instruction or structure, she got easily distracted and had difficulty keeping herself on track, she said.”

https://www.propublica.org/article/a-teenager-didnt-do-her-online-schoolwork-so-a-judge-sent-her-to-juvenile-detention

We thought the Rocker might have ADHD at that age, we even tried a few months course of medication. When I asked him if he noticed any difference in school, he said he wasn’t looking at the clock as much. 

He wasn’t looking at the clock waiting for a class to be over; he wasn’t counting down the minutes. In other words, as Bob likes to say, his environment wasn’t sufficiently stimulating! We stopped the meds. All he wanted to do was play guitar with his band buddies. In middle school he was making websites for his friends – he could focus for hours on a task IF he wanted to do.

Very much like his father, who had to sit alone in a diner one day to finish a year’s worth of homework! His teacher called him on it – she told him he would stay behind a year if he didn’t hand in his missed homework. Bob was that kid everybody hated, he never had to study. Learning came easy, too easy. Good for Ada, for not bailing him out of that school situation.

I wonder if Grace’s teacher gave her a chance to hand in her homework late? She had violated her probation in April over a Zoom juvenile court hearing, by not getting up for online classes and not doing her homework. Just like many other children of all different colors who were not on probation. I wonder if she were White, would she still be sitting in a detention cell? Would her mother have had the resources she needed to help her daughter?

Try to imagine what two months in jail would do for your fifteen year old self. Now add in a pandemic.

This virus has so many crippling effects on our children. Marginalized kids, who were barely hanging on in school, who may not have a computer in the home, or decent WiFi, or parents with the time and energy to supervise home schooling because they are essential workers, will be suffering if schools don’t reopen. And looking at the statistics in Israel, it would be completely insane to reopen schools as virus cases are rising. https://www.wsj.com/articles/israelis-fear-schools-reopened-too-soon-as-covid-19-cases-climb-11594760001

I live in a leaderless country, with states that decided to put opening bars ahead of opening schools. Mayors who are asking parents to choose between face-to-face and online schooling. Our lives have become a balancing act.

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As you already know, the Fourth holds some significance in my family’s life. In 1949, our Year of Living Dangerously, my Father died from a brain tumor in April. The Flapper decided she needed to take a small road trip on the Fourth of July weekend that year, so she piled everyone in the car. Everyone except my brother Michael, who wanted to stay home. He was eleven years old and had a basketball game.

We were driving outside the city of Scranton to see the new airport in Wilkes Barre, PA. A drunk driver hit us head on. My Nana was holding me in the back seat, I was 10 months old, there were no child seats.

Every Fourth is a mountain for me to climb; and this year is no different. I approach the holiday with some semblance of respect. Don’t get me wrong – I love our flag, the parades, and barbeque. But I’d just as soon not get in a car.

My siblings all had different ways of coping.

Mike, the one who wasn’t in the car, threw an amazing 4th of July party with his wife Jorja every year on Lake Minnetonka in MN. He called it “the good life” and my sister Kay would fly in from NY to be with the Flapper. After all, 14 year old Kay was in a coma for a month in 1949. My brother, seven year old Dr Jim, got to ride in a fire engine after the accident. He later moved his family from California to the Land of a Thousand Lakes.

I was the only one missing. I was the one sent to a foster family, and I started my own family in New England.

The Fourth of July parade was our introduction to Pittsfield, MA. Bob was interviewing for a job as an ER doctor, and I was enchanted with the Berkshires. We sat on Edith Wharton’s lawn to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We got tickets to Jacob’s Pillow and I remembered what it meant to dance. We had the Bride in 1979, while we were living on the side of a mountain with a spring-fed pond.

The Rocker was born midsummer, at the edge of a bird sanctuary. I was writing for the Berkshire Eagle, and I didn’t need to travel for the Fourth. We were content to stay home. Bob always said emergency departments are at their busiest on this holiday.

This year fireworks are cancelled in Nashville. No parade. Our city is taking a step back because the coronavirus infection rates are rising. And bars are closed, which is a good thing.

But love isn’t canceled. Patriotism isn’t cancelled. I still love this country, despite the last three years. Happy Birthday USA! Yes our founders were slave holders and scoundrels, but they did do some things right.

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The rain has started, now the beach is just a memory.

All last week, I sounded like a stereotypical old person: “We didn’t have sunscreen when we were young;” or “We only had black and white TV, no Internet!” I could have told the Grands that I had to walk 10 miles uphill to school, but that would be a lie. I did have to get dressed up in a snowsuit, hat and gloves to wait for the school bus…with other kids … because parents hadn’t heard about random kidnappings yet. Before Climate Change.

No helicopter parents back in the day, I would just stand outside in my playpen watching the activity on our street in Victory Gardens, while Nell did her daily cleaning inside. Once I started school, I’d be shooed out the door after tearing off my Sacred Heart uniform, and hanging it up, to ride my bike renegade around the neighborhood. School was a dull, dreary day full of sitting at my desk with my hands crossed into a ball, gazing at the brick building across the street through the window.

Today Metro Nashville schools have decided to reopen in the Fall. But in true Trumpian fashion, they are passing the buck to the parents in this Time of Coronavirus. It’s up to each and every family, you have a choice – 1) send your child to school, or 2) continue learning online with a remote curriculum. The American Academy of Pediatrics has weighed in – they want every child to get back to school!

“…the AAP argues that based on the nation’s experience this spring, remote learning is likely to result in severe learning loss and increased social isolation. Social isolation, in turn, can breed serious social, emotional and health issues: “child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.” Furthermore, these impacts will be visited more severely on Black and brown children, as well as low-income children and those with learning disabilities.”  https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/06/29/884638999/u-s-pediatricians-call-for-in-person-school-this-fall

Would you send your child to school if he had an auto-immune disease? Would you send your child to school if she had a grandparent living at home? Will the poor go back to school, while the wealthy buy their kids iPads and tutors?

We’ve all been socially isolated these last few months – 16 weeks to be exact. Bars and beaches are starting to close, again, because our infection rate is going up. For anyone paying attention this is not a surprise given our glorious lack of leadership. The rate of infection and hospital admissions and ultimately deaths are directly related to the rate of noncompliance with SOCIAL DISTANCING, MASKS and HAND WASHING.

Yesterday, the Bride went back to the ER, the Groom returned to his ICU, and we had our last day of unlimited hugs with the Grands. We brought yellow, Rainier cherries over to Great Grandma Ada and Hudson. The Love Bug put her hand on Ada’s through the glass – Hudson showed the L’il Pumpkin he had the same Star Wars pattern on the inside of his mask! We all made heart signs through the vestibule window. Our eyes were tearing up as we left.

We are back in the Land of Breaking News – grieving our collective losses, reigning in our emotions after hearing Mr T did nothing, absolutely nothing when he learned our soldiers had a Russian bounty on their heads. If SCOTUS allows us to see Mr T’s taxes, his adoration of Putin will become obvious. SCOTUS is on a roll!

We desperately need something to look forward to, baseball or ballet? Today at least will be a good day. T’ai Chi Tuesday has become Pilates Zoom Tuesday and I have a loaf of Bob’s sourdough sitting on the counter! And at least the rain is dampening the Saharan dust cloud.

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Do you get the impression the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”

@realDonaldTrump

I actually chuckled! Could it be that Mr T has actually got a sense of humor? A favorite reporter of mine retweeted his latest Twittering. We’ve just returned from a trip to Whole Foods, masks and groceries on faces and in hands, to hear that the SCOTUS has knocked another decision out of the park.

The current administration, made famous by keeping children in cages, will not be allowed to send Dreamers, the undocumented adults who came to this country as children, back to their countries of origin. Amen Chief Justice Roberts!

I just finished reading a book about a child, a little girl who was abandoned at the age of 3 by her parents, who had to flee Nazi Romania and the invading Iron Guard death squads during WWII. They thought their child’s best hope of survival was to dress her in her finest clothes, and leave her in a stairwell of a fancy apartment building. They thought she might be kept alive by one of the wealthy families, instead she was found by the concierge who took her to an orphanage:

The Girl They Left Behind, (by Roxanne Veletzos) in this way, tackles not only the tension of life in the face of numerous bombings and political escapades, but also tries to encompass the emotional drama of adoption and how adopted parents and children alike struggle to adjust to becoming a family. This picturesque exploration compounds the ticking clock of war that Veletzos leaves in the story’s background, leaving Natalia and her adopted parents, Anton and Despina, to make their decisions in the face of bombings, communist rule, and a desire to stay alive and together. https://medium.com/the-coil/book-review-roxanne-veletzos-the-girl-they-left-behind-celia-daniels-89d645eb1168

The parallels in the rise of Fascism in 1940s Bucharest to today are compelling. Based on a true story, Veletzos’ tale is similar to her great grandmother’s experience as an orphan during the war. Though we had not visited Bucharest on our Viking trip, I remembered the shoes on the shore of the Danube in Budapest. And in particular, the small shoes of Jewish children who were massacred there. This book is a page-turner. It will keep you up reading until 3 in the morning.

I thought of our newly discovered niece, Tamara. Adopted at birth, she thought she was part Italian. Raised in North Carolina, she said, “I’m the first Jew I ever met!” We all laughed.

Talia didn’t know she was Jewish. I didn’t know that after WWI, Soviet Romania sold people back to their families, mostly to Israel, for large sums of money. At one time, 35,000 Jews lived in a typical city in Romania, now there are a few hundred. If your Jewish family members survived the concentration camps and Death Squads, you could have them officially smuggled out of Romania for cash, paying off loans, or oil-drilling equipment. How much is a life worth, George Floyd’s brother asked Congress.

I remember once my foster mother, Nell, told me that the Flapper never gave them any money for me. She said this proudly, even though Daddy Jim’s job barely paid the bills. Of course my biological mother was widowed with young children and didn’t have much money anyway. I was never officially adopted, I was just waiting. But I guess the Flapper did get a stipend from the government for each child under a certain age; it was called The Aid to Dependent Children Program passed in 1935.

It provided $18 per month, and $12  for a second child. So I guess she got $42 dollars a month for my two brothers and me, thank you FDR! But she did pay for summer camp at St Joe’s and ballet school. The young girl who used to sneak out of her window in Scranton to dance to Tommy Dorsey’s band, wanted her daughter to know her way around a dance floor.

Congratulations Dreamers! And welcome to your new home, Uncle Joe will seal this deal next year.

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It’s the first Sunday in May and I’ve had my hands in the dirt, potting soil that is; I’ve planted Thai basil and regular basil, oregano and English thyme, French tarragon, rosemary and Italian sage to name a few. Our patio garden is like the UN of horticulture, resplendent with aromatic kitchen herbs mixed in among pots of flowers. And that makes me very happy.

We’ve had lots of time to think about things lately, and to do more of whatever brings us joy and less of the obligatory stuff. Today marks 2 months of our Coronavirus stay-in-place order. For 2 whole months Bob and I have been learning how to navigate staying home, with each other, all the time. Since Bob retired, I figured we’re veterans at this. And for the most part, our 40+ year marriage is a safe harbor, that is until the other day.

I opened the refrigerator door and couldn’t find the lox. I really wanted a lox and bagel, I’d even ordered the “plain” bagels, the kind Bob likes. Turns out, I’m a pro at using Shipt to shop Publix! I prefer “everything” bagels and whipped garden veggie cream cheese, but he’s a purist. It’s Philly’s original bar of cream cheese schmeared on a plain toasted bagel, or nothing at all. And nothing and nowhere could I find the Nova lox!

“You ate ALL the lox?!” I shouted at him.

While the Bride and Groom are on the front lines of this pandemic, the rest of us are holding our own in this storm, staying at home. We even ordered our herbs and vegetables and flowers from our local nursery online, which was difficult for me. I usually put my pots together as I go along, in person, inspecting roots and picking the most beautiful plants. I had to trust them to find just the right boxwood and lobelia.

Then we drove up, opened our back hatch and voila, no-touch garden shopping! But I wasn’t always a gardener, I used to be a newspaper reporter. I went to school board meetings and borough council and planning board meetings. I wrote biographies about colorful characters. I wrote expository essays and tried to make boring press releases palatable. Back in the day, when I had a deadline and people held the actual paper in their hands.

Today is not just the 8th week of quarantine, it’s #WorldPressFreedonDay. Without the fearless pursuit of the truth, without a free press, our democracy will become a true kakistocracy, run by incompetent, lying fools.

“3 May acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story. ”  https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/worldpressfreedomday

Today 67,000 Americans are dead, and Mr T tweets about “fake news?” This was his May 1st Tweet :

“Concast (NBC News) and Fake News CNN are going out of their way to say GREAT things about China. They are Chinese puppets who want to do business there. They use USA airwaves to help China. The Enemy of the People!

A free press keeps us honest, it shines sunlight into the halls of power. This pandemic too shall pass, just like this presidency, it will be found on the pages of a history book. And Mr T will not be able to deny the numbers of dead, or his magical/delusional thinking in January and February.

So if you don’t subscribe to a news outlet, preferably one that is independently-owned like the NYT or WPO, think about getting an online subscription. We can plant all the seeds we want this spring, but without sunlight, nothing will grow.

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I saw a meme the other day that went something like this, “There will be 2 types of people on the other side of this quarantine: great cooks and alcoholics!” Let’s all strive for the former.

While Bob and I were chopping up nuts and apples for our virtual Passover Seder, I started thinking about food and our relationship to it – do we live to eat, or eat to live? Now, our days revolve around meals like never before. What kind of traditional foods would we need at this year’s Seder table? What could we do without, since it’s just the 2 of us?

What could we even order on Shipt? Horseradish? Would grape juice be just as good as Kosher wine?

Then I started to wonder if people were going to cook a big ham, studded with pineapples and cherries for Easter? Is everybody still coloring eggs even if there are no little children to hunt for them? Today is Good Friday, and as far back as I can remember it was always pretty unremarkable. The statues and the crucifix at Sacred Heart Church were covered in purple cloth, the mood was always sombre. At home, we gave up meat, so I either ate shrimp or fish sticks!

In Ireland, people will plant root vegetables, especially potatoes today:

“…most had a custom of setting their scealláin, or seed potatoes, on Good Friday when it fell in March. This was termed putting down the early pot”, and the people worked each day from Good Friday until they had set all the potatoes.

If Good Friday was late, and fell in April, it was seen as the point up to which such work should focus. In any case, it was imperative that all the spuds be covered before the cuckoo was heard. Nobody wanted to be a “cuckoo farmer”  https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/10-good-friday-traditions-you-ve-never-heard-of-1.3864889

My foster mother Nell was never a great cook, admitting that if it didn’t come in a can she didn’t know what to do with it. But her one reliable, home-cooked, go-to, comfort meal was pork chops and applesauce, with a side of french fries. This was always a special treat, along with her once a year “Haloopkies.” Pork stuffed cabbage simmered in sauerkraut accompanied by rye bread and butter, nirvana for me in the 1950s.

But I inherited my love of cooking from my mother, the Flapper. Almost every weekend I’d watch her chop, cook and bake delicious meals for her diverse family of Catholic and Jewish kids. She abhorred waste, like many Depression-era women before her, so she’d always make a soup out of leftover pot roast with barley or a mulligatawny stew out of whatever was left in the refrigerator.

I just looked up the word “mulligatawny” since I thought it was a word she made up, but no. In fact, it’s a curry stew! The Flapper loved to embellish the truth, which I hated at first, but came to enjoy with my siblings. If someone dared to ask her if a dessert was homemade, she’d proudly say “Of course!” But you never really knew.

The first dish I cooked last month as the pandemic was looming large was chicken chili. It was the last night we had our Grands sleepover, before we were told to shelter in place. I added whatever vegetables I had left in the refrigerator to the pot, plus 2 cans of beans. I chopped up a poblano pepper for a slight whiff of heat, and served it beside sliced avocado and of course, bread and butter. It was a hit with the Bug and the Pumpkin!

Bob’s got his raised bed planted and we have already picked spinach. We ordered food from Shipt online and were delighted, I may never set foot in a grocery store again.  Never thought I’d ever have someone else do my grocery shopping, but here we are in this brave new world. Searching our pantries for lentils and flour, or matzoh, and remembering how cooking can nourish the soul.

I sent Bob over to Ms Berdelle with some chicken soup last night. Maybe I should start a chicken soup food truck when this over? He ran a pretty great Zoom Seder for our family and friends, from 3 years old to 95! It’s time to clean out the cobwebs in our homes and our minds; this is the season to declutter, to wash our patio furniture, to renew our lives, to plant and welcome fresh air and sunlight into our cloistered homes.

This is the season to stay at home and save lives.

I hope that cooking brings you joy during this lonely, holy week, and that your pantry stays stocked with your choice of beverage. Below Bob is setting up the Zoom Seder, while I prepare the Seder plate.

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